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Seeking Safety from Domestic Violence

Being abused by your spouse is a terrifying, dehumanizing experience that can leave victims wondering where they can seek safety. What feels like a never-ending stream of worries may enter a person’s mind, such as whether their abusive spouse will seek revenge or harm their children. The legal system has many protections in place for victims of domestic violence. There are also programs provided by the government to help abuse victims get back on their feet after escaping an abusive relationship.

Defining Domestic Violence

A person has committed domestic violence when they do any of the following things to someone that they share a relationship with or to the minor child of a person they have a relationship with:

  • Causing bodily injury intentionally
  • Attempting to cause bodily injury intentionally
  • Causing the victim to fear bodily harm or additional harassment to the point that they experience significant emotional distress
  • Sex-related crimes such as rape in the 1st or 2nd degree, sexual battery, sexual offenses against a child, or statutory rape

What Is a Personal Relationship?

For a legal claim of domestic violence to be considered valid, the person making the claim must share a personal relationship with the person they are making the claim against. The North Carolina statutes define a personal relationship as:

  • Spouses, both current and former
  • People of the opposite sex who are living together or have lived together in the past
  • Parents and children
  • Grandparents and grandchildren
  • Two people who share a child together

Getting to Safety Through Protective Orders

Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence deserves the ability to get away from their abuser and seek permanent safety from them. A person experiencing abuse at the hands of someone they have been in a personal relationship with can create legally enforceable distance between themselves and their abuser through a protective order, also known as a restraining order.

Chapter 50B of the North Carolina statutes allows victims of domestic violence to seek help through domestic violence protective orders. Both male and female victims can receive civil legal protection from their abusers through this law.

Types of Protective Orders

There are two types of restraining orders used in North Carolina to help protect victims of domestic violence. In some cases, both types are used. The first type of order that can be filed when domestic abuse occurs is the ex parte temporary protection order.

Ex parte protection orders are used to provide an immediate solution for anyone enduring domestic abuse. A North Carolina judge can file this type of order without all of the relevant parties present. A hearing does not need to be held after an initial report from the victim who believes they or their child is in immediate danger. The courts can also issue temporary custody orders or orders requiring the abusive party to stay away from the victim’s children in this situation. Ex parte orders are only enforceable once the abusive party has been served the order. These orders protect victims until a hearing for a more permanent solution can take place.

Domestic Violence Protective Orders

The court can provide victims of domestic abuse with a more permanent solution if a hearing finds that the alleged abuse did in fact take place. Domestic violence protective orders can last for up to a year and can be reissued for additional increments of time no longer than 2 years. Note that custody arrangements created through such an order cannot be extended past the first year.

How Protective Orders Provide Safety

Domestic violence protective orders, also known as DVPOs, prevent abusers from accessing victims of domestic assault and take preventative measures to stop further abuse from occurring. Specifically, DVPOs can:

  • Legally order abusers to refrain from assaulting, abusing, threatening, following, or harassing victims and their children in person or through any form of communication
  • Require abusers to move out of living spaces they share with victims, even if they own the home or their name is on the lease
  • Send police to the home to have abusers forcibly removed if they do not leave on their own
  • Require abusers to stay away from victim’s workplaces, schools, future places of residence, or other places the victim specifically requests within reason
  • Force the abuser to provide alternative housing for the victim if necessary
  • Place shared personal belongings, such as vehicles, in the victim’s possession
  • Give the victim possession of shared pets and specifically order the abuser to refrain from harming the pets
  • Provide temporary custody of minor children to the victim and require the abuser to make child support payments
  • Require the abuser to pay spousal support
  • Require the abuser to attend relevant treatment programs
  • Force the abuser to turn over firearms and prevent them from purchasing more of them
  • Require the abuser to pay legal fees
  • Provide criminal charges for abusers who break the order of protection or attempt to retaliate in any way

Obtaining the Protective Order

Obtaining a protective order in situations of domestic violence does include a few steps. First, the victim must file a Complaint and Motion For Domestic Violence Protection Order, which provides the court with relevant information about the situation such as what abuse has occurred and why the victim feels unsafe.

Next, the victim must draft a civil summons that will be included when the order of protection is served on the abuser. This document explains why there is an action being filed against them and how they must respond. An attorney can help victims of abuse draft such documents and throughout the protective order process.

Both documents must be given to the clerk of court in the relevant county who will help the victim see the magistrate or judge currently handling DVPOs. The judge will read them and determine through the documents and conversation with the victim whether there are grounds for an ex-parte order to be granted. If so, they will grant the order, and a date will be set for a return hearing.

The Hearing

The hearing that occurs after the ex parte protection order has been granted gives victims the opportunity to prove the claims they made in their initial complaint. Victims need to compile evidence, such as photographs or medical records, ask witnesses to speak on their behalf, and be able to discuss what they’ve endured in detail. An experienced attorney can help a victim be as prepared as possible for their hearing by explaining the process to them and helping them compile their evidence.

Other Forms of Assistance for Domestic Violence Victims

Seeking protection through the courts is necessary for many victims of domestic violence. However, victims may find themselves in need of greater assistance than what the court can provide. Anyone in an emergency crisis can text HOME to 741741 to speak with a counselor and receive immediate assistance.

North Carolina specifically has many resources to assist victims of domestic abuse. Some of them can be found at this link. Examples of services they provide include case management, advocacy in court, support groups, food and clothing, and shelter. There are also groups that can help translate in court so everyone can be represented fairly and understand every detail of their case.

Krusch Law Can Help

We understand the serious nature of domestic violence and can help victims obtain protection from the person abusing them. Our law firm handles family law cases exclusively treats each case with compassion and respect for its individual circumstances. With over 40 years of experience, we are prepared to handle any case that is brought to us and to represent all victims of domestic abuse. Reach out at (704) 343-8811 or through our online contact form to schedule a consultation.

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